A Right to Die?
In 1990, Dr. Jack Kevorkian used a homemade suicide machine to help a 54-year-old Alzheimer’s patient, Janet Adkins, end her life. Adkins was the first of many patients Kevorkian helped to die, but her case began a long debate over the ethics of assisted suicide.
Kevorkian and his machine were shocking. But in the 1990s the issue was also being raised by mainstream doctors, like Dr. Timothy Quill, of Rochester NY. He published an article about his experience prescribing life-ending medication to a long time patient. And, in 1994, Oregon voters passed a ballot initiative allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminal patients. Since then physician-assisted dying has become legal in California, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
But for doctors and patients in the rest of the nation, it’s a wrenching issue. The case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who suffered from brain cancer, brought the subject to the fore, and more and more state legislatures are considering the issue.
More Like This
Trump, Measles, and a Study That Fueled Fear
President Donald Trump has long been a critic of childhood vaccines -- but recently he changed course, urging parents to vaccinate their children.
Suicide, Veterans and How a Simple Idea Is Trying to Combat a Crisis
As the nation continues to confront an epidemic of suicide, we explore the promising work of Dr. Jerry Motto, who in the 1960s, pioneered a simple, yet surprisingly successful method of treatment that is being implemented today.
How an Underground Abortion Network Got Started
It started with one request. A friend's sister was pregnant and suicidal. Before long a clandestine group called Jane was created to help women in Chicago with illegal abortions.
Genetic Screening: Controlling Heredity
With every new advance in prenatal genetic screening, the ability to prevent suffering has also sparked difficult questions about what should count as “a disease” versus “a difference,” and whether we’re in danger of wiping out certain segments of the population. This story was produced in collaboration with PBS, American Experience.